Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, November 20, 2014

Contact:  Brett Hartl, (202) 817-8121

Report: Endangered Red Wolves Can Recover,
But More Reintroductions Like North Carolina's Are Needed

WASHINGTON— An independent report released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Nov. 14 finds that the reintroduction program for endangered red wolves in North Carolina has been successful but that, if the species is going to recover, more reintroduction efforts will be needed. Red wolves are one of the rarest endangered species in the United States, with about 100 in the wild. Today’s report concludes that the species’ recovery will require at least three populations, achievable only through multiple reintroductions.

“In just a few short decades, the red wolf has gone from the very brink of extinction to more than 100 wolves in the wild, showing that the Endangered Species Act can achieve heroic things,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This report shows that more progress can be made to restore these unique and beautiful animals, but no one should be surprised that it won’t be easy. The American public is counting on the Fish and Wildlife Service to not abandon the difficult job of recovering our red wolves, but rather to expand the program.”

Red wolves were once abundant along the entire coastal plain of the Southeast, but decades of relentless persecution pushed them to the brink of extinction. By 1970 the population had declined to fewer than 100 wolves; many were hybridizing with coyotes because they were unable to find other red wolves for mates. The species was declared endangered in 1973 and, in a final attempt to save it, 17 wild red wolves were captured for captive breeding. Wolf releases began in North Carolina’s Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in the mid 1980s with an objective of obtaining 35 to 50 wolves in the wild. The current population stands at roughly 112 wild wolves. 

Today’s report, however, concludes that this will not be enough to secure the species and that much of the current population’s habitat is threatened by sea-level rise. The report recommends expanding the species' range with additional populations. 

“This report makes clear that, just like wolves in Arizona or California, red wolves need space to live if they’re going to survive and recover,” said Hartl. “The Fish and Wildlife Service should expand the red wolf program into other wild areas in the Southeast where suitable habitat exists.” 

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 800,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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